Christ Followers, Committed Athletes, and the Faith Journey

I’m a big sports fan. It is not the most important thing in my life or even the second most important thing in my life but it is something that I have committed a lot of time, energy, and resources to over the years. In fact, I don’t remember to many summer vacations growing up because most my summers were spent on the baseball ball field. Therefore, my family would vacation during the Christmas break. Currently, I serve with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes as a Character Coach at a local elementary school.

We live in a sports-crazed society no doubt. A week rarely goes by in which we don’t learn about some sort of “breaking news” in the world of sports. Recently, three men were inducted into Cooperstown, the Hall of Fame for Major League Baseball. This week is the Super Bowl in the National Football League. There is a lot of hype, analytical work, and money spent on things like this.

As Christ followers, Jesus desires certain traits and characteristics in us. When you read the Scriptures you see the type of people He called to follow Him, to join Him on mission. You will notice things such as hard work, devotion, and passion. You also see these traits in athletes that are successful on any level of competition. Furthermore, I believe we as Christ followers can learn a lot from the lifestyle, work ethic, and passion of committed athletes. Allow me to highlight four of these areas.

Train effectively and often. The coaches I had growing up taught me this: Games are won in preparation. If you have lousy practices during the week, you will probably not find yourself in the win column that often. Committed athletes train physically no doubt but, it is just as important to train mentally and emotionally as well. Winning athletes wake up before any else to train. They are the first ones in the building and the last ones to leave. Their dedication to their team and sport is undeniable. As Christ followers, how often are we training spiritually? This goes way past picking up a Bible every once in a while. Some Christ followers might tell you Jesus is the most important aspect of their life but then will scramble to find their Bible for church on Sunday mornings. It is not only important to train often but also effectively. Things such as accountability, biblical community,  involvement in the local church, and consistent gospel conversations, are crucial in the life of a believer and help us grow in our walk with Jesus.

Forced to think “we” before “me.” Sports, in large part, are team-oriented sports. You have to be successful as a team unit in order to be effective and win. The most successful teams are full of individual team members who work hard to be the very best at their specific job so that the overall team is successful. With that being stated, there is no denying teams are full of self-centered, egotistic, “all about me,” athletes. What do you see come from this? Distractions and a broken team unit. While they may be incredibly gifted athletes, they end up hurting their team instead of helping their team. Committed, successful athletes are forced to think and thrive on “we” before “me.” A quarterback-wide receiver combination is only as good as the offensive line is. In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 9, Jesus told His disciples you must deny self, pick up your cross daily, and follow me. The mission of God is all about one person, Jesus Christ. It is not about us, it is about something  way bigger than us.

Make others around them better. This is possibly the single most important trait of a committed, successful athlete. When they step onto the field or court, they make others around them better. Their skill set allows others to shine. I love seeing an elite quarterback make an average wide-receiver look incredible. This also gets back to the theme of work ethic. When leaders in the locker room work endlessly, it is amazing how often others on the team exemplify that. On the other end, when leaders in the locker room have terrible attitudes, it can destroy the team as well. Jesus spent His earthly ministry pouring into a few men with an incredibly calling on their life. He taught them, spent time with them, prayed with and for them. Why? Ultimately because He loved and cared for them but also because He knew the type of impact they could and would have. Being around Jesus, His Kingdom and mission makes us better believers, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, employees, and so on.

Play through the pain. Committed, successful athletes want to be on the field or court at all cost. They will do whatever it takes to be able to play and help their team win. It kills them to stand on the sidelines and watch. They play hurt and convince the training staff they can play even when they probably shouldn’t. Their attitude is “cast it up” and lets play ball! The Christian life is hard, no doubt. It is a life of self-denying sacrifice that comes with victories and hardships, bumps and bruises. At the end of the day though, a committed, successful athlete knows it is worth it. Following Jesus is not always easy, it is always worth it. Every single time.

So to the Christ follower… are you training effectively and often or are you being lazy and apathetic? Are you thinking “we” before “me?” Are you making others around you better by the example you are setting? Are you playing through the pain or are you giving up?

3 People Every Christ Follower Needs in Their Life

The Christian life is the greatest thing one can be a part of and invest their life into. When Jesus looked at 12 ordinary men and said, “Follow me,” it was the invitation to die to self and follow the Master. When these 12 men put their “Yes” on the table, an incredible opportunity, full of love, grace, and devotion began. The Christian life is also difficult. Don’t misunderstand, it is completely worth it but with sacrifice comes difficult decisions and constantly defining self for a greater purpose. That being said, as a Christ follower myself I believe there are three people every Christ follower should have in their lives on a consistent basis as we continue to walk this faith journey together.

Someone in front of you. This is a mentor figure in your life that is further down the road than you. A person that instructs and speaks truth into your life. They pray for you, ask hard questions, and model what a devoted Christ follower looks like. They are not perfect by any stretch but they are obedient to what God has called them to do. Therefore they become someone we watch, we learn from, we seek counsel from, and we seek to model what they model. The danger for so many Christ followers is that we become complacent and think “we have made it” in our faith journey and we stop learning, reading, and become lazy. Christ followers, may we always have at least one person that is in front of us, urging us and guiding us to love Jesus more than anything else.

Someone beside you. This is a friend and accountability partner in your life. They are about the same age, same gender, and are in the same life stage as you. You minister to them, they minster to you. They ask you the hard questions, you ask them the hard questions. You meet often, text each other often, and pray for each other often. The Christian life was never, ever meant to be lived in a silo. When Christ followers isolate themselves and don’t have accountability and biblical community in their lives, we are so much more likely to fall into temptation, “hide” sin, and not grow spiritually. It is vital that every Christ follower has at least one person beside them.

Someone behind you. This is either a person that is not a Christ follower or a struggling Christ follower. For whatever reason, they are struggling in life. They need prayer, counsel, encouragement, and most important a maturing Christ follower to come beside them and give them sound, Biblical truth and guidance. They need someone to stop what they are doing and care enough to hear their story. If they are not a Christ follower, they need someone to clearly explain the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how to accept Him as their personal LORD and Savior. If they are a true Christ follower and they have hit a rough patch, they need someone who will be honest and help them. To commit to pray for and with them. Christ follower, don’t share with this person that you are “in front of them” in life. All this will do is create a “They think they are better than me” mentality that will discourage instead of encourage. Simply minister to them in honest, real and tangible ways.

Christ follower… who is in front of you, who is beside you, and who is behind you? 

 

We Didn’t Go to Church on Wednesday

We didn’t go to church this past Wednesday evening. Before you jump to conclusions, no, I have not lost my job and yes, things are fine at the church. We didn’t go to church on Wednesday because it was fall break for our local school system and we didn’t have our regularly scheduled activities. Our local school system actually has a two week fall break. Our student ministry had a game night during the first week and then the second week we gave our leaders and families a break. Many people were out of town for both weeks anyway.

This past Wednesday actually ended up being a very eye-opening, confirming night for me. Let me explain by giving you four observations/confirmations I made by being a home on a Wednesday night.

Our neighborhoods are full of people not connected to a local church. I saw many of our neighbors and their friends. At one point I looked out our front door and counted 8 kids, various ages. The driveways were full of cars, not empty. I had a great conversation with my next door neighbor about his job, family, and what it is like raising kids. It lasted about 30 minutes but no where in the conversation did he say, “Wait a minute, aren’t you a pastor? Why aren’t you at church right now?” We talk about missional living as this trip we go on 10 hours down the road in a different city, all while we have people we see everyday, that live right next to us, that may not be saved. That aren’t connected to a local church.

Our start times may be difficult for some. Several of my neighbors got home right before 6pm or right after 6pm. Most of the ones I personally know work 30-45 minutes away from our neighborhood. Our church has an optional dinner that begins at 5pm and then activates start at 6pm or a little bit after. People are busy, no doubt. Several families have two working parents, leaving/picking up kids at daycare, practices, recitals, and so many other things. We have to have a start time for programming. If you start earlier people can’t get off work to be there in time. If you start later you run into bed times for younger kids, middle and high students cramming to finish homework, and so on. Its a hard call when is the best time to start. Again just an observation about how crunched people are for time.

People miss church. I received a text message from one of our leadership high school students right before 6pm asking what time the party started at my house. We joked for a little while and I thought to myself, “What a great idea for another fall break down the road!” If I had student stuff that night would some have came, yes. Would it been a great night, yes. Next two week fall break am I going to meet both weeks, no. Why? It’s totally okay and valid to give volunteers a break every once in a while. It gives them a necessary break and tells them I appreciate what they do. You also have to have volunteers to pull it off. If you don’t, then you need to seriously evaluate what and how you are doing ministry. It was good to hear from students and know that they miss when we don’t meet.

I love what I do. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and spending time with them, but I missed church as well. It was an odd feeling. What was on TV? What were we going to do? I ended up thinking a lot about church and actually began writing this blog post. Outside of family vacation and if I’m so sick I can’t see straight, we are always at church on Wednesday. Some may say, “Well you are paid to be, right?” Technically, yes, but I have gone to church on Wednesday nights long before I was a paid staff member. That does not make me more spiritual than someone who works third shift and simply can’t make it a Wednesday night at 6pm. Church is a priority in my family, always has been, always will be.

We didn’t go to church this past Wednesday evening. Was that a bad thing, not at all. Should that be the habit, not at all.

 

Community is not the Problem… Biblical Community is.

Community is not the problem, biblical community is. Let me explain. Lets take college football for example. I personally love college football. I wake up on Saturday mornings and watch commentators and analysts talk about the day’s games, predicting wins, loses, and upsets. I have my favorite college football team’s schedule on my calendar. I talk with other fans about my team, what is going well and how we are blowing it. I buy apparel to wear to outwardly support my team. I invite others to know more about my team and connect with those that are like-minded. When I can, I go to games to support my team. Basically, I am a passionate fan and a part of my favorite team’s community.

It is not just me, this happens all over the nation. Passionate fans gather with others to cheer on, support, and encourage the hometown team. And for the most part, as long as it does not cross into becoming an idol, this is a good and exciting thing. The main takeaway from this is people really aren’t scared of community. Why is it Christ followers may not be just as excited about biblical community? Gathering together to cheer on, support, and encourage in making disciples of Jesus Christ.

One might ask, what is biblical community and how does it differ from any other community effort?

Biblical community is when you leverage your influence to lovingly invite others to lean into the instruction that transforms our lives. (Acts 2:42-47)

1. Leverage your influence. Who is in your circle of influence? These are the people you spend the most time with. How do you identify who they are? These are the people you go to sporting events, concerts, and school functions with. These are the people you invite over to your house in the summer for a grill out. These are the people you celebrate life’s victories and struggles with. Simply put, the people you are in close relationship with. When there is relationship their is friendship, trust, and accountability. When these things are evident, you have influence in their lives and they have influence in your life. The question becomes what do you with this influence? Christ followers, do you leverage it for the Kingdom of God or do you waste it? Do you speak eternal Truth into the lives of people you know or do you just talk about last Saturday’s game?

Acts 2:44 (ESV), ” And all who believed were together and had all things in common.”

2. Lovingly Invite. When there is an atmosphere of friendship, trust, and accountability , this creates the window to invitation. What is the invitation? The invitation is to be a part of and invite others to something that is bigger oneself, the mission of God. To not only connect with each other but to connect with each other connect in biblical community with the purpose of discovering who God is and how He is continually changes lives.

Acts 2:46 (ESV), “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,”

3. Lean into Instruction. The main difference in Social Groups/Clubs and Biblical Community is the Bible. Without the Bible, small groups don’t exist. This is why it is called biblical community. The Bible is the story of God: what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will do. It, very simply put, it a life-changer. Our mission as Christ followers should be to leverage our influence to lovingly invite others to discover the greatest story ever told. To sit with each other on a couch in a living room, with open Bibles, open hearts, and willing to do whatever to make the name of Jesus famous.

Acts 2:42 (ESV), “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

What is the bottom line, the end result? Souls are saved and sanctification is strong. Acts 2:47 (ESV), “praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Small Groups and Student Ministry

The fall semester began this week for many students all over the nation. This means getting back into regular routines that seem to go away during the summer months. Parents are waking up their kids in the early morning hours, school teachers are preparing lessons, coaches are lining the fields, and you can hear the marching bands once again as they prepare for Friday nights. All of these things are exciting things to look forward to and be a part of.

In the life of the local church, student ministries all over the nation are gearing up for their fall launches as well. Student pastors and leaders have the incredible opportunity to partner with parents in developing students to be salt and light on their school campuses. To take what they learned during the summer months through camp, retreats, and mission trips, and leverage it for Gospel influence.

Also, new small groups are gearing up to launch and existing ones are beginning to get back into their regular routines. Whether these are on campus groups or off campus groups, these are crucial in the life of a Christ follower. Of all the things student ministries do, small groups are one of, if not the most important, aspects we can build into. Allow me to give you a few reasons why I believe this.

Biblical small groups faithfully engage in the Word of God. Students have the incredible opportunity to engage in God’s Word on a more intimate level with a caring adult. While the preaching of God’s Word in a worship service is very important, it is almost impossible to digest the content of God’s Word outside of a small group community. When we sit down with a group of people to read and study Scripture, we have the opportunity to get to know God, our Heavenly Father, more intimately. It is important to remember that without the Word of God small groups are simply social clubs. Discipleship is key.

Biblical small groups give students a safe place to ask questions and seek Truth. Students have hard questions about life issues and what the Bible communicates to these issues. To many times in the local church we want to avoid hard issues and answer with the typical, “Read your Bible and pray more.” While these are definite spiritual disciplines, small groups are an incredible opportunity for students to ask questions and seek Truth on a deeper level. Students should not feel inferior or “lesser” of a Christian because they have doubts. We all have doubts, every single human being. Small groups also allow students to see caring adults as they walk through life, with their own have struggles and victories. Within this, the accountability factor is a huge part of small groups. Relationships are key.

Biblical small groups give students an intentional place to be known. Students thrive on having small group leaders they know they can trust and are available to them. Parents love that they can have other trusted adults impacting their kid’s lives. It is a win-win situation. “What is God teaching you through His Word right now?” “How are you making Jesus famous in your circle of influence?” “How are you glorifying God in your thoughts, words, and actions?” These are great questions for a caring small group leader to ask students they are in a discipleship relationship with. When the local church loves on the next generation and reinforces the truths of God’s Word to them, we see students sent out to make a difference and invest in younger believers with the same passion. Intentionality is key.

May student ministries all over be purposeful in developing healthy small groups for students to engage in. When leaders and students dive into the mission of God together, incredible Kingdom work takes place.

Families and the Summer Months

Summer is here!!! What an exciting time for families to connect with each other and do Kingdom work! What tends to happen within the summer schedule is we allow our spiritual growth to drift a little bit due to different schedules, vacations, camps, and so forth. For many of us this can be done very unintentionally but yet very easily. Satan is “crafty” as Genesis 3 teaches and he may be getting your heart by getting your calendar. If you are consistently going to bed at night exhausted and worn out from various activities, there is a chance you might be falling into this category. You might be involved in really great, moral, activities but are you engaged in Gospel-centered, Kingdom work? Allow me to make four suggestions that you and your family can do over the summer to enhance your spiritual walk both as individuals and as a family.

Share the Gospel. Find a family in your neighborhood that is lost, on the fringe, or unchurched, and make a connection with them. Invite them over for a meal and fellowship. Take them a plate of cookies one afternoon and invite them to a family event at your church. The key, however, is to do all this with the intention of sharing the Gospel with them. A neat thing to also do is pray for the families in your neighborhood by street.

Connect to a Daily Bible Reading Plan. Make sure you and your family are in the Word every single day. Parents have to be the ones setting the example and modeling this. Kids will model what they see. There are TONS of great resources available to help out with this such as bible apps, websites, and printed materials are all very accessible. My encouragement to families is to find a time, a place, and a resource that works for them and be diligent to see it through.

Spend Quality Time Together. I know spending quality time together as a family is growing more and more difficult simply due to schedules, especially if you are raising multiple kids. Make it a point to spend quality family time 2-3 times a week. In this time talk about what God is doing in your hearts and lives. Spend time together by seeing a movie, grilling out with other families, going to a local ballgame, or getting some ice-cream after dinner one night. All of these things communicate a key truth: I care about you and you are worth my time. Kids, whether they want to admit it or not, want to know we care about them and love them. One of the best ways to do this is to simply spend time together. Jesus modeled this in His ministry- He was all about people. He also took time to be alone- to rest and relax and spend time with the Heavenly Father.

Engage into Ministry Outreach. Simply put, be the hands and feet of Jesus to those around you. Serve during VBS week and/or get plugged into a mission opportunity through the local church. Find another family that is in need and if you are able to, meet it. If you don’t have the resources to help them do what you can, God will honor your heart and effort. One of the best ways we can reach families with the Gospel is simple acts of service. We model this because Jesus modeled this.

Summer is often seen as a time of rest and relaxation. While we definitely need to take time to do this, that doesn’t mean we put evangelism and spiritual growth on hold or make it an after thought. This summer, whether we have a lot of free time or we find ourselves so “busy” we literally can’t fit everything in, Jesus and Kingdom work must be our top priority.

Here is a simple way to think about ministry as a family:

Sharing: Who are we telling our faith story too?

Growing: How are we growing in our faith and as a family?

Caring: When are we spending quality time together?

Engaging: Where are we plugging into ministry?

When the God I Read About is not the God I See

God. Whether you believe in God or you don’t believe in God, it is hard to argue against the influence God has had and continues to have in our culture. Some see Him as nothing more than a fairy tale figure with no real purpose, especially a divine purpose. Some have believed and surrendered their very life to Him. No matter where you are on this spectrum, at the very least, it is worth seeking and asking. After all, we are dealing with one of the most debated figures of all time.

The more conversations I’m in with people about God, “organized religion,” church, the Bible, and so on, the more I hear in people’s questions the desire to know. The desire to go deeper in their pursuit of something that will matter in the end. Something or Someone that makes a difference. Amid these conversations, I hear a mainline thread running in the question(s). After much thought and continual learning when asked about God and the Christian faith, I believe the mainline thread is this:

Why is the God I read about (or am told about) not the God I see (or experience)?

In other words, if God is a loving, caring, relational God, then why does nothing in my world, from what I can tell, speak to this? I hear or maybe have even read in the Bible that God is a good, holy God. Then I look at the world, and I see pain, divorce, cancer, and disunity, at best. I just don’t get it. If God a liar? Is He mad at the world, or me for that matter?

If you have ever thought about these things or are currently thinking through these things, don’t worry you are not the first. Trust me; you will not be the last either. You are in good company. I have personally asked some of these same questions. With that being said, allow me to pose a few questions in helping you as you discern crucial questions about who God is. I encourage you to write out your responses.

Who is God?

This question may seem simple or the logical place to start but notice what I didn’t ask. I did not say, who do you wish God was in this season of life you find yourself in, who did your parents say God is, who did your grandma’s preacher yell to you that God is. I asked, who is God? Who do you believe Him to be?

What filter or lenses did I use to come to this answer?

When asking questions and trying to seek substantial responses or answers, we must be honest with ourselves how we came to the conclusion we did, if any. Again, where we just told to believe a certain way because “that is the way it is.” Did we read secular books, the Bible, and other sources, and come to a conclusion? Did we ask questions to those we perceived to be more knowledgeable? Did I enter my own “spiritual journey” of thought and contemplation? After answering the question, “Who is God…” wrestle with the why and how. Why and how did I come to this conclusion?

When you have the time to dedicate to it, get a Bible and read John 1:1-14 and John 3:1-21. Underline key people, words, and phrases. Write down any thoughts, questions, or concerns you have.

Do I know who God is?

Behind the question, why is the God I read about, not the God I see, typically lies this reasoning: God is not acting like I think He should or need Him too. He didn’t come through. Maybe there is a situation you prayed about for months, and the outcome was different from what you were desiring. Perhaps you have always had this internal struggle with how God connects in your reality. Maybe you want to know; you don’t know how and you desire more than the clique, “Pray this prayer, and you will be fine.” Do you know who God is? Who has changed, the nature, character, and wisdom of God… or… you?

Who God Is.

I grew up in a Christian home. Both of my parents are Christians, my dad is a deacon at my home church, and my mom has always worked in some capacity with kids at church. All of my brothers are Christians; one is in full-time ministry as well. I never recall a time where conversations about Jesus and the Christian faith were not a part of my life. I was genuinely saved at the young age of six years old. To be clear, “saved” means that you have come to point where you admitted you are a sinner in need of saving from your sins which separate you from a right relationship with God. You have believed in your heart and confessed with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. He is Lord of your life, the old has gone, and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Growing up in a Christian home did not make me a Christian. Think about this: every single person who has been transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ has had a personal encounter with it. Do you know who God is? Think about the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus from John 3. What was Nicodemus’ struggle? He couldn’t separate the Jesus he thought he knew or wanted Him to be, from the actual Jesus sitting right in front of Him.

Life is hard, no doubt. There have been (and will be) seasons in my own life that I ask, “God, what are doing right now?” Typically these are requested in hard and difficult seasons. This does not mean God doesn’t care or is absent from your reality. Just because my thoughts about God may change or the way I perceive Him may change, doesn’t mean God changes. Pursue Him with all your heart. Seek to know Him honestly; you won’t regret it.

Isaiah 55:8 (ESV), “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”

Satan’s Four Biggest Lies

In Genesis 3 the Bible refers to Satan as “crafty” (NIV, ESV, NASB). The HCSB and NKJV translates the word “cunning.” This means he is creative and good at what he does. So, what does he do? According to John 10:10 his mission is to steal, kill and destroy. Since Genesis 3 and fall of humanity, Christ-followers have been in a war – a war against Spirit and flesh. The apostle Paul wrote about this to the church of Rome when he said, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15 ESV)

Satan at the core is a masterful deceiver. He manipulates and lies to get you to fail and fail miserably. He is not for you. He will tell what you want to hear instead of what you need to hear. Let’s look again at the fall of humanity in Genesis 3. Satan’s lies were, “Did God actually say…” “You won’t surely die…” “You will be like God- knowing good and evil.” All of these things sound good, right? Of course, they do. Who wouldn’t want to be like God? At the end of the day though, they were lies, full of deceit.

As a pastor, I hear this phrase often, “Satan made me do it.” We play the blame game. Adam and Eve did the same thing in Genesis 3. Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed Satan. (Genesis 3:9-13)  While Satan is the masterful deceiver, we believe the lies; we sin, we fall short. I often want to look at people who blame it all on Satan and say, “God gave you a brain to use it” or “God gave you intellect for a reason.” We do have the ability to tell the difference between right and wrong. We don’t set the standard though – God has.

It is a battle, a hard struggle no doubt. Satan is destroying the family unit. We are “redefining” everything these days, and it will only get worse. Absolute truth is viewed as “narrow-minded” and arrogant. Christ-followers are laughed at and mocked.

So what tends to be Satan’s four biggest reoccurring lies?

1. The Lie of Independence: You don’t need God; you can do it on your own.
“You got this…”

2. The Lie of Conditional Love: God’s love for humanity is based on what we do or don’t do.
“…so what does God think of me now?”

3. The Lie of Secrecy: Sin isn’t that big of a deal; no one will notice.
“No one even knew about it…”

4. The Lie of Time: Live the life you desire; you have all the time in the world.
“There’s always next Sunday…”

The bottom line of all four of these lies is false hope. So where is hope? Where can we turn to find Truth? The Truth can only be found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What Jesus says is true. Always. Romans 8:37-39 HCSB says, “No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!”

So what is the best way to know Truth?

1. Relationship: An intimate relationship with Jesus. (Philippians 3:10, John 3:16-17)

2. God’s Word: If it contradicts or goes against the Word, it is wrong. Period. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, Psalm 119:105)

3. Sanctification: Growth and maturity as a Christ-follower. (Colossians 2:6-8)

Satan is a masterful deceiver. Jesus is greater. Jesus is better. Christ followers DO NOT live in defeat! Why? Because through Him we have life. Eternal life. This does not mean we will never mess up, but in the mess ups, we have a higher perspective that Jesus is doing great work in and through us.

Baseball, Graduation, and What is to Come

Spring is in full swing which means warmer temperatures, people putting up their winter coats and getting out shorts and flip-flops! You also begin to see families outside walking around, playing, and hanging out. The snow is gone and the sun has come back out and there is an excitement that comes with that!

I also love this time of the year because I am a huge baseball fan. I love throwing baseball outside, going to ballgames, and watching games on TV. From the sights and sounds of a bat hitting the ball, to peanuts and a coke at the ballpark, to teams competing against one another, it is all exciting for the devout baseball fan. From my earliest childhood memories, I remember being on the ball field with my teammates and my Dad coaching me either from the dugout or from the stands.

Baseball, like any other athletic completion, has two major components- the preparation for the season and then the actual season of play. We see this from little league baseball players who throw with their parents, siblings, or friends in their backyard to the professional athlete who trains to be bigger, faster, and stronger than they were the year before. Once the season gets here it is all on the line. All the preparation is to compete for the prize- a championship. Both preparation for the season and the actual season of play are crucial for the baseball player, their coaches, and the team itself.

Also in the spring comes another important time in the life of many families- graduation. High school seniors are getting their final assignments turned in, getting senior pictures taken, prepping for what is next, and in a few short weeks will walk across a stage and graduate from high school. This is a time to celebrate the growth that has been accomplished over the last several years of their lives, academically, physically, and spiritually. The graduation season is a lot like the game of baseball. There is a season of preparation and the season that is to come. In a lot of ways, for the high school graduate and their families, what comes after graduation has been prepared for and prayed over for the last 18+ years. From the joyous moments, to the hard conversations, the laughs, the tears, all this for the season that is to come.

So, what is to come?  In a baseball season, there are wins and loses. There are unexpected things that come up that no one saw coming. Typically, it doesn’t go exactly how teams had planned. Life is no different. There are wins and loses and unexpected joys and hardships. The key in life is to have a personal relationship with the One who knows exactly what will happen next- Jesus Christ. Nobody on this side of eternity knows what will take place next. As believers in Jesus Christ we know He holds the future and what Scritpure has laid out for us. However, we don’t know what tomorrow holds. Jesus does.

The apostle Paul encouraged the church in Corinth with this in 1 Corinthians 9:24-26 (HCSB)…”Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. Now everyone who competes exercises self- control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away. Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air.”

So what would I tell the Christ-following high school senior? Run in such a way to win the prize. A prize that is so much more than an athletic championship. A prize with eternal value. Remember, life is not about you, it is about the glory of God. God has a beautiful plan laid out for your life, including this next season you are about to enter, so pursue Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. There will be ups and downs, unexpected joys and hardships. In all this, Jesus is still King and He still holds your life in the palm of His hand.

Helping Kids Live on Mission

Recently, I blogged about the importance of helping middle school and high school students live on mission. You can find that blog post HERE. It is absolutely vital that teenagers live on mission. With that being said, I believe living on mission needs to begin way before a person enters middle school. In fact, I believe we must be proactive in the area of missional living with younger kids so that when they get older it isn’t such a struggle. There is huge long-term benefit for the family, families to come, and the Kingdom of heaven, in doing this.

I believe we need to lead, equip, and teach elementary aged kids in four concepts so that they have a better understanding of what it means to live on mission for Jesus.

1. Lead kids to understand the why behind the what. As Christ followers, the Gospel drives all we do and all we are about. Kids need to know that yes we are “helping people” but that is not all there is to it. We live on mission by loving people like Jesus loves people. We have the opportunity to tell the greatest story ever told. Our thoughts and actions must speak to the life changing message of Jesus Christ. Kids can and should play a hug role in this. Remember, kids learn best from repetition. We need to constantly remind them of the why behind the what.

2. Teach kids the 10-10-10 principle: Missional living can take place 10 steps down the road, 10 minutes down the road, and 10 hours down the road. You don’t have to be in a “jungle in Africa” to live on mission. Kids need to be reminded that people 10 steps away, 10 minutes away, and 10 hours away, all need Jesus. From the kids they run around with on the playground, to the kids they only see on the refrigerator that their family prays for, the mission is the same, show them Jesus. Be the hands and feet of Jesus to a lost and dying world. What is important to remember is that no matter the location, the mission is the same.

3. Help kids and families experience missional living together. It is a powerful picture of the church being the church when dad, mom, grandparents, and the next generation are all living on mission together. Dads and moms must be in the habit of telling their kids how they are living on mission while showing them as well. This can involve things such as praying together, serving a family in need, and inviting another family in the neighborhood to come to church with you. Deuteronomy 6:7b (HCSB) says “talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” I pray that families live this out faithfully, starting with mine.

4. Equip kids to embrace that missional living is something Christ followers are continually about. Missional living does not have an “off and on switch.” Whether we are at school, on the ball friend, at a dance recital, at a birthday party, or at church, we are always to be a light in a dark world. A simple way of living this out is praying, “Lord use us to bring Your name glory today” before leaving for the day. Kids are as much the church as their parents are. Parents, before you go to bed at night, pray over your kids. Pray that they would love Jesus more than anything else.

Psalm 78:6a (HCSB), “…so that a future generation — children yet to be born — might know…”